LEXINGTON, KY — Trustees of Lexington Theological Seminary have declared the school is in a state of financial emergency and will use this as an opportunity to boldly reinvent itself by developing a curriculum that stresses effective parish ministry as its primary focus.
Declaring financial exigency the technical term for determining a financial crisis exists that threatens the survival of an institution allows the trustees among other things to end faculty tenure. It also recognizes the loss of corpus on its restricted endowment.
While these changes are very painful in the short term, LTS President James P. Johnson said the Seminary will focus on creating a new curriculum that will better prepare divinity students for careers as parish pastors. Faculty will develop courses that will merge theological thinking with practical skills in such areas as money management, use of technology and conflict resolution. Many course offerings will be available online and taught at remote locations.
The school’s financial situation has been compounded by "a tsunami of economic disasters that we have not seen in our lifetimes," Johnson told trustees. An endowment that once stood at about $25 million in July 2007 is about $16 million today, Johnson said.
Johnson said the Seminary’s $4 million budget will be cut, meaning reducing faculty and staff positions.
Steve Monhollen, faculty representative to the trustees, said faculty learned of the pending decisions several weeks ago and have already begun discussing ways to redesign and enhance the curriculum and the learning process. "The faculty has been energized by the possibilities of being on the forefront of a totally new seminary curriculum."
"The Seminary will look different, act differently and be better positioned to serve students and congregations when we come out of this," Johnson said.
He challenged trustees to raise an additional $400,000 by April 30. Trustees will meet again May 3-4 to review the progress.
The Seminary continues to meet all its financial obligations, Johnson said; however, the draw on the endowment must be reduced immediately, forcing the staff cuts. It costs LTS $10,000 per year in tuition to educate a master of divinity student; almost all master of divinity students receive scholarships for tuition, only having to pay outright for room and board.
The Seminary, founded in 1865 as the first seminary of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), had a fall enrollment of 120 students, most of whom are seeking their master’s or doctorate degrees. It is accredited by the Association of Theological Schools, and Johnson said the association is working with the Seminary to make sure accreditation is maintained during the transition.
Contact: Jim Johnson 859-280-1230